Bruce Springsteen Inspires Theology Class
“The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen, performs with his E Street Band in 2012.

He was once known as “The Boss” when he first appeared on the music scene, but now it seems American rock star Bruce Springsteen could be a rather unlikely spiritual leader. Students attending class at Rutgers University were able to explore a side to Springsteen’s music that they might not have appreciated before, thanks to Professor Azzan Yadin-Israel, who is a scholar of ancient rabbinic literature at the University.

The professor—who is described as a long time Springsteen fan—says that there is a hidden theology and spirituality in many of Springsteen songs and this is to be examined in the class at Rutgers, which has been called “Bruce Springsteen’s Theology.”

Up to twenty students are allowed to attend the classes, which will run for ten weeks; however, the class is only open to first year students. During the course, Professor Yadin-Israel will pose several questions such as how can Springsteen’s songs in turn inform our reading of the Bible? And how can biblical religious sources help us read songs like these?

Professor Yadin-Israel was inspired to start the course after he wrote an article along similar lines. In the published article, the professor wrote about an Israeli band that often referenced religious verses in their songs. This led Professor Yadin-Israel to ponder if there was a US equivalent.

After reading many of Springsteen’s lyrics, the professor came to the conclusion that a lot of Springsteen’s songs could have a deeper theological meaning as the lyrics often refer to redemption and the “promised land.”

One song Professor Yadin-Israel highlighted was one of the lesser known Springsteen tracks called “Jesus was an only Son” While the song offers a different framework and interpretation, the professor views this as an example of one of Springsteen’s more blatantly theological songs.

Professor Yadin-Israel said:

“Interestingly, Springsteen refers more often to the stories of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) than the New Testament. On a literary level, Springsteen often recasts biblical figures and stories into the American landscape. The narrator of “Adam Raised a Cain” describes his strained relationship with his father through the prism of the biblical story of the first father and son; Apocalyptic storms accompany a boy’s tortured transition into manhood in “The Promised Land,” and the first responders of 9/11 rise up to “someplace higher” in the flames, much as Elijah the prophet ascended in a chariot of fire (“Into the Fire”). Theologically, I would say the most dominant motifs are redemption — crossing the desert and entering the Promised Land — and the sanctity of the everyday. Springsteen tries to drag the power of religious symbols that are usually relegated to some transcendent reality into our lived world. In his later albums he also writes very openly about faith.”

Not surprisingly, the classes have garnered plenty of attention nationally. However, if you weren’t one of the students lucky enough to actually attend the class, then the professor plans to write a book on the subject of Bruce Springsteen’s Theology at some time in the future.

About Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen was born in 1949; he was raised a Catholic and in a recent interview stated that it was his Catholic upbringing that often influences his music.

Following his early years with the E Street Band, Springsteen became hugely successful in his own right and has sold more than 65 million albums in the United States alone.

Born to Run and Born in the USA are two of Springsteen’s best-selling albums and the singer has also won multiple Grammies for his work.

Springsteen’s latest single, “High Hopes,” with Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, will be officially released next week.


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photo by: Alive87